John’s Note: Every gobbler is a challenge, but some are candidates for the Turkey Hall of Fame. Gobblers are individuals. Although many will do what they’re supposed to do, when and the way they are supposed to do it, some turkeys become so expert at eluding the hunter, they seem almost supernatural. These toms have advanced degrees in hunter dodging, and in my lifetime I’ve met my share of these birds. But that’s what I enjoy about the sport of turkey hunting – you never know what’s going to happen, and you’re playing against an opponent that on his turf is often as smart, if not smarter, than you are. While pursuing gobblers, I’ve also had the good fortune to hunt with and interview some of the greatest turkey hunters in America today. All agree there are some gobblers that never can be killed legally.
If a hunter ever begins to believe bagging a turkey is easy, some bird will surely show him the error of his ways.
The late Billy Macoy and I were hunting together one morning when an old bird truly tried our patience. I enjoy hunting with a partner where one sportsman does the calling, while the other does the gunning. On this particular morning, Macoy was to call, and I was to shoot. The hunt started out great, and we were confident it would be an easy, quick day of turkey taking. We heard the tom gobble and went to him. We crossed a waist-deep swamp creek and set up in a grove of palmettos. The bird, which was about 100-yards away, had a clear trail to come to us and was extremely responsive to our calls. So, I felt confident we’d have a bird in our bag within 15 minutes.
Sitting about 15 yards in front of Macoy with gun on knee, I faced in the direction the bird should come. Within 5 minutes after we heard the gobbler fly off the roost, I heard him drumming and strutting in front of me, just behind some palmettos. However, instead of coming straight in, the bird walked off to my left and strutted and drummed behind a screen of palmettos less than 20-yards away. Every 2 or 3 minutes I saw his head dart through an opening in the palmettos.
I decided not to take the bird unless I had a clean shot.
This mature turkey was patient. He knew a hen should come around those palmettos if she expected to be bred. I wasn’t patient. I wanted the turkey to step clear of the bushes. For an hour and 20 minutes, it was a Mexican standoff. Macoy called, and the turkey gobbled. But the bird never came from behind the screen of palmettos, so I could have a clean shot. Finally, with my nerves shattered and my patience at an end, Macoy changed calls and gave a slight yelp. The tom stepped in front of the screen and stuck his head straight up. The hunt was over. I was soaking wet with sweat from excitement and anticipation, but the turkey was in our bag.
To get John E. Phillips’ Kindle ebook “PhD Gobblers,” click here.
About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (AMA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors.